March Story (Viz), written by Hyung Min Kim and illustrated by Kyung-il Yang, does not lead with its best foot, in my opinion. It’s nominally in the “comeuppance theatre” category of storytelling in that it’s largely episodic and features terrible but avoidable things happening to guest stars with a protagonist swooping in to try and minimize the damage. But unlike my favorite examples of comeuppance theatre, bad things don’t happen to these people because they themselves are bad, but because they’re kind of dumb. I’m going to put the rest of this entry behind a jump, because it’s less of a review than a spoiler-filled, inexplicably obsessive discussion.
“M” is for…
Well, it’s for lots of stuff, so I won’t even try and be comprehensive. I’ll just hit the highlights.
Technically, this could fall under “N,” as Viz insists on putting “Naoki Urasawa” in front of all of that creator’s titles, but I’ll just stick with plain-old Monster in this case. It’s about a brilliant surgeon who unknowingly saves the life of a deranged killer. Oops!
On a much lighter front, we have Rumiko Takahashi’s Maison Ikkoku (Viz). It follows the start-and-stop romance of a somewhat aimless young man and his widowed landlady. They also have crazy neighbors who are pretty funny.
On an arguably much more horrible front, we have the often fervently disliked Maria Holic (Tokyopop), written and illustrated by Minari Endou and originally serialized in Media Factory’s Monthly Comic Alive. It’s not all wrongly accused neurosurgeons and romantic comedy, kids.
On an interesting but commercially shaky front, we have Me and the Devil Blues: The Unreal Life of Robert Johnson (Del Rey), written and illustrated by Akira Hiramoto, who added some supernatural elements to the life of the legendary blues musician.
Also from Del Rey and also focused on the microscopic is Moyasimon: Tales of Agriculture, written and illustrated by Masayuki Ishikawa, which is in limbo since the Kodansha shake-up.
Viz just launched March Story, written by Hyung Min Kim and illustrated by Kyung-il Yang, and originally published in Shogakukan’s Sunday GX magazine.
On the creator front, we’d certainly have to start with Taiyo Matsumoto, known best here for his brilliant Tekkonkinkreet and GoGo Monster and perhaps less so for his out-of-print Blue Spring and No. 5, all from Viz.
Viz has also published Motoro Mase’s Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit.
Lots of people have loved the work of Kaoru Mori, including Emma and Shirley from DC’s lamented CMX imprint. But we can look forward to her Otoyomegatari from Yen Press.
Minetaro Mochizuki’s Dragon Head (Tokyopop) enjoyed critical if not commercial success when it was published here.
Few creators are capable of the kind of tightly-controlled crazy delivered regularly by the brilliant Junko Mizuno, most recently of Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu (Last Gasp) fame.
Some of my favorite comics have come from Kodansha’s Morning magazines.
And way back in the day, Tokyopop published a little magazine known originally as MixxZine, which featured seinen titles like Parasyte and Ice Blade.
I wouldn’t even know where to begin with the unlicensed seinen titles that start with “M,” so please feel free to contribute your suggestions in the comments. And of course, I’m curious as to anything that starts with “M” in your seinen alphabet!
I don’t know how I forgot MPD Psycho (Dark Horse), written by Eiji Otsuka and illustrated by Sho-u Tajima. It could be that the series is a little gross for my taste and I prefer Otsuka’s Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, which he creates with Housui Yamazaki, who created Mail, also from Dark Horse. I like Mail a lot, but I left it off this list because I thought it was originally published in a shônen magazine (Kadokawa’s Shônen Ace). Can I have a ruling?
Goodness, but it’s a dense ComicList this week!
Dark Horse continues to work its way through some of CLAMP’s most-loved back catalog. This week, it’s the first omnibus volume of Cardcaptor Sakura, originally published in English by Tokyopop and with an associated, legendarily butchered anime dub, if I remember correctly.
I’m also very fond of Konami Kanata’s Chi’s Sweet Home (Vertical), a slice-of-life tale about an orphaned kitten settling in with her new family. The third volume is due, and I’m working on a review of the series for later this week.
March Story (Viz), written by Hyung Min Kim and illustrated by Kyung-il Yang, is more interesting to me conceptually than it is for its individual merits. It originally ran in Shogakukan’s Sunday GX, and it’s by Korean creators, so that’s kind of unusual. Other than that, it’s very well-drawn but kind of average comeuppance theatre. It’s a big week for Viz’s Signature imprint with new volumes of 20th Century Boys, Kingyo Used Books, and Vagabond.
Yen Press is releasing a lot of product this week, but my clear favorite is the fourth volume of Svetlana Chmakova’s Nightschool, a complex, polished supernatural adventure about a school for mystical types.
What looks good to you?
“I like an anything goes approach,” Kaori Yuki assets in one of her creator’s notes in the first volume of Grand Guignol Orchestra (Viz.) This statement is about as close as Yuki comes to understatement anywhere in this paperback. And that’s fine.
Given that Grand Guignol Orchestra is a sort-of period piece about a group of musicians who fight zombies, one should only expect so much restraint, and given that it’s by Yuki, one would be lucky to find any restraint at all. It’s not one of her defining characteristics, and I can’t imagine that it would really be one of her strengths.
I say this as someone who hasn’t read a ton of Yuki’s work. I found the first couple of her Godchild to be visually impressive but so clumsily translated and adapted that I couldn’t bear to read any more. Camellia Neigh’s work on Grand Guignol Orchestra is much more fluid and lucid, though still tinged with that special brand of Yuki madness. Her stories will probably only ever be mostly lucid, I suspect, because she’s very invested in atmosphere and, as she confesses, “anything goes.”
There’s an undeniable charm in the idea of musicians being the only thing that can destroy zombies (zombies that look like dolls, no less). It’s sort of like Mars Attacks!, but much more sincere, and the music isn’t just a gag at the end. The orchestra itself is more of a combo, starting with three members and adding a fourth by the end of their first adventure. Membership seems limited to the androgynous and the thuggish, though only half the regular cast is properly developed in this first volume.
Yuki is fond of twists, and things are seldom entirely what they seem. She has mixed success with the reveals; sometimes they’ve got a creepy jolt, sometimes they’re just mildly confusing. But it’s nice to see some narrative punch mixed in with the faux-European aesthetic (which you cannot deny is lovingly, sometimes ravishingly rendered) and the sly-cool cast of characters.
As is usually the case with Yuki’s work (in my admittedly limited experience), the real successes come in the form of smartly conceptualized horror. In this case, it’s the guignols themselves, disease-stricken innocents who’ve become a kind of cracked-porcelain zombie. Yuki adds a layer of sweetness and powder to the decay, which always makes it more unsettling, at least in my opinion.
But while Yuki’s work always has its points of appeal, I’m never entirely sold. She strikes me as having the potential to become a more commercial Junko Mizuno if she could just strike that balance between creative focus and intellectual abandon and emotional shamelessness. Yuki seems to be always on the verge and never quite there, at least yet. But I do love to see a reliably popular creator in any comics category who also seems at least a little bit deranged.
(This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher. Grand Guignol Orchestra was originally serialized in Hakusensha’s Bessatsu Hana to Yume.)
It’s Saturday, and I’m unmotivated, but I feel like I should do one small, concrete thing. So welcome to the first installment of the random Saturday question!
Today, I ask you: of which manga series have you read the most volumes or the largest number of pages?
My answer is after the jump.
Sometimes information comes your way that forces you to set aside your best-laid plans, you know? I had thought about doing a Friday piece rounding up feedback from last week’s call-out for Kodansha requests, but a comment from JennyN (or “the French Connection,” as I like to think of her) has put that on hold:
“Three volumes in French translation so far, and quite unlike anything else she’s ever done. For one thing it’s straight-out yaoi, and for another it has a historical rather than fantasy setting – Japan immediately after WWI i.e. the Taisho period which is also the setting for the “real-world” episodes of FUSHIGI YUGI LEGEND OF GEMBU. (I’d guess that this is something of a personal fascination for Watase, just as 19th-century Germany and Austria seem to be for Yuu Higuri).”
The “she” in this case is Yuu Watase, the wildly popular shôjo manga-ka who has also dabbled in shônen. But seriously, Watase is doing yaoi? Watase, who always seems to include some unnerving psycho-sexual undertones in even her fluffiest romantic comedies? Who wouldn’t at least be curious about that?
So what do we know about Sakura-Gari? Its three volumes were serialized in Shogakukan’s josei magazine, Rinka, and it’s being published in French by Tonkam. Here’s my attempt at a translation of the French volume descriptions. Volume one:
“Masataka Tagami goes up to the capital to succeed, he enters into the service of the Saiki family to finance his studies. While becoming the family’s majordomo, Masataka will plunge in the middle of the schemes of this strange family whose beautiful eldest son exerts an irresistible attraction on all those around him!”
“Since the incident of the library, Masakata is tortured and reluctant to leave the Saiki residence. But he learns that his brother is involved in debt to gangsters. He reluctantly accepts the bargain that Soma proposes to him: if Masakata remains near him and agrees to become his plaything, Soma will give him the money Masakata needs.”
“After the tragic events visited upon Masataka, Soma is gripped with remorse. He will do anything to avenge his friend and to try to make Masataka forget his painful past. Of course, the pile of bodies around the Saiki family sparking suspicions among the police force, but that matters little to Sora…”
Okay, so it sounds like fairly standard, coercion-friendly period smut, but it’s Watase doing full-on same-sex romance. Someone needs to get on this right away.